God Is Not Void, Life Is Not Zero

BY: SUN STAFF - 22.9 2022

By HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, Back To Godhead, Vol. 01, No. 50, 1972 - Part One.

Bhaktivinode Thakura said, krsnera samsara kara chadi 'anacara: everyone can engage in family or worldly life, but one simply has to abandon his destructive habits. This is not a question of negation; it is positive understanding. Simply negating material existence by impersonal voidist philosophy, in India called Mayavadi philosophy, is not sufficient. There must be a positive platform. Without it, simply giving up something negative will not in itself help us progress in spiritual life. If we have no positive destination, simply abandoning or trying to abandon our present condition is of no value.

Spirit Has Form

There are two kinds of Mayavadi philosophy. One, called voidism, for lack of a more positive name, states that the origin of everything is simply void. Generally, Buddhist philosophy advocates voidism in that the Buddhists maintain that this material existence is a combination of material elements and that when these material elements are dismantled, whatever was formed by the combination again becomes void. We may bring some iron, wood, stone, cement and other ingredients together to make a large house, but when we separate the bricks, iron, wood and so on, the construction becomes void. The voidists maintain that material miseries arise from a combination of matter. The bodies of living entities are certainly combinations of material elements earth, water, fire, air, ether and subtle elements such as mind, intelligence, and false ego. These are all considered material, and somehow or other they are combined to make an abode of misery. The voidists say, "Separate them and there will be no more happiness or distress."

The other Mayavadi philosopher, the impersonalist, says, brahma satyam jagan-mithya: this material combination is false, but behind it there is spirit. This is also a fact because matter can only grow when there is spirit within. If a child is born dead, it will not grow even if we somehow keep it chemically preserved. The body will not develop unless the spirit soul is present within. It is a generally accepted fact that matter grows because of spirit, but the impersonalists say that this spirit is impersonal, that it has no form and is formless. The Krsna consciousness philosophy takes exception to both of these theories of the Mayavadi philosophers.

The philosophy of Krsna consciousness maintains that spirit is a fact and that indeed the spirit has form. If one's body is round and bulky, one's suit, his coat and pants, will also be round and bulky. Because the body has arms and legs, one's suit has them also. The external material body is compared to one's clothes in that it covers the spirit soul. If the spiritual body, which the material body clothes, is void, then why does the material body have form? The impersonalists cannot answer this, but Bhagavad-gitaexplains it clearly:

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro 'parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

"As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones." (Bg. 2.22)

Once we had the bodies of infants and children, but now those bodies are changed. When this body becomes too old, the spirit soul gives it up and accepts another. The spirit soul has form, but it is so small that its length and breadth cannot be estimated by material means. Material scientists can only estimate intermediate manifestations; they cannot estimate the smallest, and they cannot estimate the greatest. In other words, they cannot measure the vastness of outer space, nor can they measure the minuscular particle which is the spirit soul. Indeed, the spirit soul is so infinitesimally small that it is stated in Vedic literatures to be no larger than one ten thousandth the size of the tip of a hair. In other words, it cannot be seen by the most powerful microscope available. Modern science has no suitable instrument to actually measure the soul. Consequently, out of frustration they say that the soul is formless. In actuality, however, the soul is not formless; they simply have no instrument to measure it, that's all.

Similarly, because the impersonalists cannot measure the greatest and the smallest, the infinite and the infinitesimal, they say that God and the spirit soul are formless. The Krsna consciousness philosophy, however, maintains that both God and the individual soul have form. The difference is that God is infinite and the spirit soul is infinitesimal. Otherwise they are qualitatively one, just as a drop of sea water and the great sea itself are qualitatively one. Quantitatively there is no comparing the sea and the drop of water, just as there is no comparing the individual soul with the supreme soul. According to the Krsna consciousness philosophy, one should accept one's position as a drop in comparison to the infinite. As often said, God is great, and we are small; our position is to serve the great. That is natural, for everywhere we find the smaller serving the greater. God is great, greater than anything else, and since nothing is equal to Him, it is the constitutional position of all living entities to serve Him. That rendering of service is called Krsna consciousness.

Negating Material Existence

Instead of artificially attempting to negate material existence, the members of this society for Krsna consciousness are trying to enter into a real existence by chanting the Hare Krsna mahamantra, studying the philosophy of Bhagavad-gita, and rendering service to the society which is devoted to spreading the philosophy of Krsna consciousness throughout the world. In this way material existence is automatically negated by entering into the reality. When we come to the reality, we automatically become healthy in the sense that we become freed from this material disease, which is symptomized by the material body which is always full of disease. It is not that because we are diseased we have form and that when we become free from disease we become formless. This is the Mayavadi contention, and it is nonsense. At what stage in our development do we become formless? The impersonalists say that the formless state is attained at death, but in Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, "For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain." (Bg. 2.27) It is not possible, therefore, to remain in a formless situation. The point is that we should keep our form but keep it in a healthy condition. This means realizing our spiritual form or spiritual identity, which is svarupa. It is an insanity to think, "Because I have this form, I am feeling pain and pleasure, so now let me become formless." This is strictly a materialistic view of the form of the spirit soul. The real point is to keep the form in a healthy condition; this healthy condition is called mukti, or liberation from material conceptions.

How is this possible? All one has to do is simply dovetail everything to Krsna, to steep one's life in Krsna consciousness. For example, under the spell of maya, people are moved to dance. In any case, dancing will continue, but in one case one person is dancing in the ballroom for his own personal gratification, and another person is dancing in a temple for the satisfaction of Krsna. There is a vast difference between the two. Ballroom dancing is conducted on the platform of the material body, but in Krsna consciousness dancing is on the spiritual platform. Therefore the Society for Krishna Consciousness invites everyone to come dance and sing to relish transcendental pleasure. That is the real program of this Krsna consciousness movement. It is not very difficult; a child can also dance and clap. By real singing and dancing, we can make advancement in spiritual life. The living entity can continue singing, dancing, eating, sleeping, and mating, but he should permeate these things with Krsna consciousness or God consciousness. Everyone is seeking after eternal happiness, and this is the program. There is no question of trying to merge with the void or become formless.

(To be continued...)